What is your strength?

What is your strength: are you a problem solving manager or the manager that represents the company publicly? Should a company have both types of managers on board?

The term management seems old-fashioned and redolent of organisational complacency that needs to change.

It has been proven that twenty-first century businesses want leaders, not managers.

Why do companies set such store by leadership skills?

Could it be that if they call managers leaders, then it does not matter if they are without people management skills, because employees will follow them by the sheer force of personality? That model may work when times are positive, and particularly during years of rapid acquisition-led growth. But during periods of consolidation, market contraction or economic downturn, exacerbated by intensifying competition and environmental challenges, innovation and creativity is the only way to stay competitive.

What is “enough”?

Enterprise leaders must be able to:

  1. make decisions that are good for the business and
  2. evaluate the talent on their teams.

To do both they need to recognize that business functions are distinct managerial subcultures, each with its own mental models and language. Effective leaders understand the different ways that professionals in finance, marketing, operations, HR, and R&D approach business problems, and the various tools (discounted cash flow, customer segmentation, process flow, succession planning, stage gates, and the like) that each discipline applies. Leaders must be able to speak the language of all the functions and translate for them when necessary. And critically, leaders must know the right questions to ask and the right metrics for evaluating and recruiting people to manage areas where they are not experts.

Generating innovation thinking throughout the organisation means encouraging ideas from the bottom up, not from the top down. Unfortunately most managers have no idea how to exploit talent and capability of their people because they’ve never been given the tools and training to do so.

The real question is: should organisations develop an internal culture in a bid to incite, educate and deliver innovation, a shift through the hierarchical management approach towards a more democratic culture characterised by effective listening and coaching and not telling? Your thoughts?

The Value of LinkedIn Connections

One of the issues that Geoff highlights on his blog is the importance of networking and listening to new voices. One of the platforms that he uses to meet new people is LinkedIn.

Many of us connect in the virtual world of LinkedIn first. When we find a common ground we try to meet in life.

LinkedIn is a treasure trove for making connections and expanding your network. Many people may just use it to have a public resume online they can refer to for work related matters. This is a very limited and static use of a dynamic platform. Others use LinkedIn’s full potential by updating their profile regularly, post on the home feed and commenting on posts from others, and they are active in groups.

If you wish to get the most out of LinkedIn and need a little help, you need to connect with James Potter. James is an expert at helping people, directors, CEO’s & corporates turn LinkedIn into the success they seek, be it sales, new business or new projects using LinkedIn.

And to prove that Geoff means what he says: we met on LinkedIn. We stayed in touch through the groups and when my travels took me to the UK, Geoff took the day off to meet me at my conference in London. True networking!

What are values?

Picture aug 2014I have had some significant meetings recently on and around operational risk, having the fortune to speak with directors about the risks to a business, when interestingly enough the subject moved to conduct risk and the behaviour of staff.

Five years ago if you spoke to most executive boards across the world about operational behaviour or cultural planning or implementation you would probably hear “are these normally reserved for likes of our human resource team”, or “does our brand actually have a vision, mission, values or personality trait.” Generally these discussions are reserved for an alternative agenda, that rarely transpires due to lack of understanding or knowledge in the area of specialism.

As conduct risk and culture are now entering a new era of board discussion and to use it to make a positive change to an organisation, we have to study values. Values are a company’s most important basis for what a company represents, what they want to accomplish, commit to and how they want to behave.

When we live out our values, we commit our actions to the important matters of ethics, integrity belief and commitment. Ideas like “individual character” are built around deeply held values, and the meanings and worldviews associated with them. When we talk about good societies and democratic politics, we’re always talking about culturally held, and shared, values and worldviews.

Worldviews are sets of beliefs about ‘how things work,’ ‘how life is,’ and ‘what’s objectively important in life.’ When we talk about cultural differences across nations (or subculture differences within a country), the core of those differences often grows out of particular values and worldviews held in common within a people, or an ethnic group, not just the way they dress and talk, or quaint customs.

Values are the deepest and slowest-changing indicators we can measure with surveys, and worldviews are almost as deep, while attitudes and opinions are closer to the social surface of life, more superficial, labile and faster to change. Values and worldviews are said to be ‘deeper’ when they are part of who we think we are, are more strongly held, matter more to how we live our lives, and are more a part of our personal ‘systems of meaning and important life priorities’. The more we believe that our ideas, beliefs and opinions are ‘who I am,’ the more tightly we hold onto them.  Not only are they slower to change, but when change comes, it is rather like a ‘conversion experience.’

Values are deeper and slower changing than attitudes and opinions, which change rather fluidly as new information, many aspects of attitudes and opinions are psychological: emotional or cognitive, but they too may be filtered through a heavy cultural framing. The ones that stick become incorporated in worldviews.

So exactly how can culture’ help plan and shape a company to improvement and increased performance?

Below is a study from Kotter & Heskett’s Landmark ‘Corporate Culture and Performance,’ Across 207 large U.S. companies in 22 different industries over an Eleven-year period

Kotter & Heskett
Revenue Increase Stock Price Increase Income Increase ROI
Improvement from managing change 166% 74% 1% X%
Improvement from managing culture change 682% 901% 756% X% x2



Is Human to Human communication dying?

in person communicationThis week I was privileged to have coffee with a good friend of mine who flew into London from Tokyo on a business trip and somehow in his busy schedule and mine we managed to have breakfast at The Ritz on Piccadilly.

After a delicious but expensive breakfast, we discussed some of the week’s latest and most recent stories in the media that we came across by email, social media and other collaboration tools. We discussed one particular story where a mum exchanged text messages with her daughter who was in school. They ‘chatted’ back and forth, the mum asking how things were going and daughter answering with positive statements followed by emoticons showing smiles, b-i-g smiles and hearts. Happiness. Later that night, her daughter attempted suicide. It came to light that she’d been holed up in her room, crying, and showing signs of depression — a completely different reality from the one that she conveyed in texts, Facebook posts, and tweets.

As human beings, our only real method of connection is through authentic communication. Studies show that only 7% of communication is based on the written or verbal word. A whopping 93% is based on nonverbal body language. Indeed, it’s only when we can hear a tone of voice or look into someone’s eyes that we’re able to know when “I’m fine” doesn’t mean they’re fine at all.

Engrossed with technology, anyone can hide behind the text, the e-mail, the Facebook post, or the tweet, projecting any image they want and creating an illusion of their choosing. They can be whoever they want to be. And without the ability to receive nonverbal cues, their audiences are none the wiser.

This presents an unprecedented paradox. With all the powerful social technologies at our fingertips, we are more connected – and potentially more disconnected – than ever before.

Every relevant metric shows that we are interacting at fast speed and frequency through social media. But are we really communicating? With 93% of our communication context stripped away, we are now attempting to forge relationships and make decisions based on phrases. Abbreviations. Snippets. Emoticons. Which may or may not be accurate representations of the truth.

Social technologies have broken the barriers of space and time, enabling us to interact 24/7 with more people than ever before. But like any revolutionary concept, it has spawned a set of new barriers and threats. Is the focus now on communication quantity versus quality? Superficiality versus authenticity? In an ironic twist, social media has the potential to make us less social; a surrogate for the real thing. For it to be a truly effective communication vehicle, all parties bear a responsibility to be genuine, accurate, and not allow it to replace human contact altogether.

In the world of communications, email is now thought to be second fiddle to the likes of Twitter and Facebook. The always-on mentality has brought about these new ways to communicate that are faster than email, and much more fun.

face to faceIn the past we had a set of contacts, all of whom generally knew how to reach us via telephone, letter, or e-mail. Today, thanks in large part to social media and collaboration tools, there are many different levels of communicating. Our networks are larger than they’ve ever been, and we’ve more ways to communicate with those in them. Even if you’re not active on Facebook or Twitter, who you communicate with and how you communicate will probably have changed dramatically in the last year or two. This new connected era brings with it both opportunities and challenges, and it pays to know how to use each.

Studies from the Radicati Group show that 144.8 billion emails are sent every single day. Now that’s a lot of emails being passed back and forth! It doesn’t stop here, though. This number is projected to rise to 192.2 billion by 2016. Today, there are approximately 3.4 billion email accounts worldwide, with three-quarters of those owned by individual consumers.

A corporate cost and productivity analysis with some interesting if not alarming statistics is below:

  • The average worker checks their email 36 times per hour – Atlassian
  • The typical corporate user spends over 2 hours per day reading and responding to emails – McKinsey, the Social Economy
  • Professionals receive an average of 304 business emails per week – Atlassian
  • It typically takes 20-15 minutes to refocus on a project following an email – Microsoft
  • On average, the business user spends 28 hours per week writing emails – McKinsey

Add it up – pretty costly to an organisation and to the productivity (and sanity) of end users. According to NewsGator, “one Fortune 100 manufacturing company calculated that a simple 2% reduction in email volume could save $2.6 million per year”.

I think there needs to be a balance of email, social media and collaboration tools. What ever happened to picking up the phone? Or talking to someone face-to-face? Or do we not have time?

Are we truly engaging with our relationships?

Connecting RelationshipsI had dinner this week with a good friend of mine in Mayfair – London, who has just been appointed a strategy director for a very large software company when we decided to discuss the subject across people relationships and are we truly engaging with our relationships in this much dominated technology age.

We discussed social media and its engagement with relationships and generally agreed that social media is broadly your choice of tools. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Google Plus are most popular and important for relationship building through the use of your brand, context, goals, target audience, etc.

One definition that helps pin it down comes from Taylor Ellwood, author of Understanding the Social in Social Media. He writes:

“When I think about engagement in social media, I think of it as an activity where a person is purposefully choosing to interact with other people. S/he is actively interested in participating in the online community and is also actively interested in helping others out. Engagement then really means developing relationships, sustaining them, and consequently creating an environment where people can trust you enough to want to do business with you.”

More and more, individuals are empowering the use of technology and expect to engage with brands when and how they want; organisations are tasked with encouraging and supporting collaboration for employees, and customers, while keeping an unrelenting focus on user experience. How can they do this, while safeguarding the integrity of both the business and the brand?

It’s a complicated challenge to deliver a personalized and valuable experience – one that is challenging brands to metamorphosis to truly engage with their customers and would-be customers through understanding what they want (through analytics), providing them what they want (through valuable content and storytelling), and when and where they want through a consistent omni-channel brand experience (mobile, Web, and physical).

It means putting people at the center, to create open and authentic ways of engaging with individuals instead of segments or categories. This is possible today like at no other time in history because of the convergence of technologies for social, mobile, cloud, and security. This convergence is giving organizations and brands the means to meet people where they are. It is arming them with the data and the expertise required to personalise every human-to-human interaction. And it is giving them the credibility that is the foundation of trust. In fact, 80 percent of individuals are willing to exchange personal information for a personalized offering (IBM 2013 Annual Report, page 21) with brands they trust to keep their information safe.

The wonders of technology are impressive, it’s true, but in order to effectively engage with people we must look back to some of our intrinsic and ancient human qualities: storytelling, substance, empathy, and the value of specialised skills and talents. All of which is made most daunting to brands by the rapidity of the change and the fact that multiple shifts are occurring simultaneously…and the changes will keep coming!

IBM research shows that there are compelling reasons to foster this cooperation. Outperforming enterprises are 54 percent more likely than underperforming enterprises to collaborate extensively with their customers (see Figure 9). In fact, deep collaboration is a universal ambition: nine out of 10 CxOs foresee doing so in the near future (see Figure 10). (Exploring the Inner Circle: Insights from the Global C-Suite Study, IBM Institute of Business Value 2014.)


Of course, the crucial bridge between the organisation and its customers is the workforce. The ability to engage, develop, recognize, and support employees is essential in the high-stakes battle for customer loyalty. It is these individuals who represent – and effectively are – the organisation’s brand in the market. They interact with customers on a daily basis. It is they who monitor and analyze changes in customer preferences and who develop and maintain the technologies that help connect the physical and digital worlds. This is why a motivated and properly prepared and engaged workforce will be indispensable for success in the customer-activated world.

The exciting future of all of this is that we truly have the opportunity to co-create and innovate as both employees and as customers, allowing us to connect, engage, and collaborate as people – together – to create value and invention.

Fight to end child trafficking!

Love146 LogoOn Saturday 14th June, I was invited to a charity event by one of the charities that I support Love146. They staged a high tea and presentation in the West End of London. Love146 supports Anti-Human Trafficking internationally.

There has been much media focus on the subject recently and positive steps have been taken certainly in the UK to increase security at airports, ports, and train stations to protect innocent children from sexual crimes and trafficking. This is a subject that I feel incredibly passionate about and I support the charity in their projects and fundraising and hope you will join me.

In 2002, the co-founders of Love146 travelled to Southeast Asia on an exploratory trip to decide how they could serve in the fight against child sex trafficking. In one experience, a couple of their co-founders were taken undercover with investigators to a brothel where they saw children being sold for sex.

These children were vacant, shells of what a child should be. There was no light in their eyes, no life left. These children…raped each night… seven, ten, fifteen times every night. They were so young. Thirteen, eleven… it was hard to tell. Sorrow covered their faces with nothingness. Except one girl who wore the number 146. She was looking beyond the glass. She was staring at the founders with a piercing gaze. There was still fighting left in her eyes.…

The experience left the team with emotions that broke them. Because they went in as part of an ongoing, undercover investigation on the particular brothel, they were unable to immediately respond.

But they took her number so that we could learn and they could remember why this all started. It is a number that was pinned to that one girl but represents the millions enslaved.

Model with the number 146Four years ago, Love146 UK recognised the need for a presence in Europe and have since opened an office in the UK with a vision to offer Survivor Care for trafficked and exploited children and young people. There are four stages strategically covered to make sure the highest quality of care and awareness is delivered:

  • Identification
  • Prevention
  • Survivor Care
  • Action

This June, Love146 Europe hosted a Tea Party event in London parallel to supporter hosted tea parties across the UK to raise awareness and share the news of the first home called “Safe Accommodation” due to open in September 2014. They also introduced the European team who are clearly passionate and active abolitionist, but also highly skilled and qualified in their individual fields.

Emotionally impacting, the event opened with a dance piece arranged by the professional dance group ‘Rebirth’ portraying a scene from a brothel with young girls being sold – it mirrored the story of how Love146 was birthed and it brought the audience right to the core of what this charitable organisation is fighting to eradicate.

In 2012, the UK Human Trafficking Centre identified 549 children who were potential victims of human trafficking.  Sixty% of trafficked children go missing from local authority care. Nearly a third that go missing are never found again.

Set up cost for each new ‘Safe Accommodation’ is £77,105 and Love146 Europe depends on financial support from people, community groups, corporate’s, and grants/trusts. They need people us.

Please find more information on their website with options to take action, and  how to donate.

The video shows you the harsh reality and has brief graphic moments.

Their registered address is Love146, PO Box 883, Altrincham. WA15 5ND, United Kingdom

You can contact them by email: info@love146.org.uk

For tax purposes, their Registered Charity number is 1144930

Please join me in this fight to keep children safe!

Are Events Still Key to Creating Relationships that Drive Sales

London recently held its Technology Week and the majority of key companies and players in the industry used varying marketing channels to position and showcase their products, services to the mass market, I decided to visit some of the events to gauge the level of interest at exhibitions and customer events to see exactly how companies were developing business in the current economy.

What I noticed was that all of this pressure on immediate value-creation did accelerate a process that has been underway for some time in the marketing sector. Brands are increasingly making a break with their ad-centric past by re-centering campaign strategy and creative across a variety of mediums.

To drive sales by persuasively engaging marketing-resistant customers in a targeted manner, business-to-business and consumer brands are now giving below-the-line channels such as Web marketing and events an opportunity to originate campaign strategy and creative as well as integrate with other mediums from the bottom up.

As a result, it seems that now is an unprecedented time for marketers to more deeply explore their organisation’s investment in the event marketing discipline and how it drives integration with other marketing channels.

Confronted by a turbulent economic climate and the changing ways in which audiences consume and are influenced by media to make purchase decisions, the C-suite and boardrooms of major brands are looking to senior marketing and sales executives as a source for innovative new strategy. They are looking for measurable ROI on every investment.

Face-to-face interaction continues to be the reason respondents attribute to event marketing’s high ROI rating and overwhelmingly so. Face-to-face interactions are essential in forming customer relationships as they provide the kind of in-depth customer insight, trust building and immediacy about a brand that drives top-line performance.

By correlating marketing investment to its business impact instead of narrowly focusing on the success of the marketing tactic alone, marketers not only more easily secure investment for their programs but are able to create more targeted and effective programs in the process.

Event marketing is a discipline that seeks to evolve from the simple “features and benefits” sales dynamic that characterises most event marketing into more comprehensive and compelling interactions that physically, intellectually and emotionally involve audiences in the demonstration of the brand promise. The result is a powerful increase in the depth and volume of brand differentiation, conversion and loyalty.

Today’s business leaders have charged marketers to invest in areas that both drive revenue and build the brand – a challenging mandate as consumers and business buyers stretch out the purchase cycle, demand personalization and reject mass marketing.

In light of these realities, what is most important in this pressure-filled environment are relationships. Based on trust and intimacy, personal affiliations with brands, products, services and fundamentally between the people behind them are catalysts to business growth.

Senior executives clearly believe that events provide sound ROI but it’s up to event marketers to improve on this perception even further by ensuring executives’ agreement on ROI methodology and communicating those measures in language that more effectively articulates the validity and impact of the metrics.

Developing more efficient communication and measurement systems are thus the twin imperatives of today’s marketer. Those who do so successfully will achieve greater success for themselves and their organisation by becoming a force of profitable change.​

Do banks support SME’s – HSBC does

IMG_20140618_142834 small
Don, Andrew and Richard by Geoff Hudson-Searle

I was recently invited to a day with HSBC at the prodigious ‘The Grove’ property in Herfordshire to play golf and understand more about the HSBC support to SME businesses in the UK.

Interesting enough, the number of private sector businesses in the UK increased to 4.9 million at the start of 2013 – a record high. BankSearch report that there were 447,000 new business start-ups in Great Britain during 2013. This is 9% lower than 2012, but is still healthy and higher than in 2008 and 2009.

We discussed that small and medium-sized businesses account for 99.9% of private sector companies and provide 60% of private sector jobs. These enterprises have an important role to play in driving growth, opening new markets and creating jobs

The facts are when it comes to small businesses, data is more scanty, but a survey from law firm Taylor Wessing has revealed that 84 per cent are either “confident” or “somewhat confident” about growth in 2014.

Geoff Hudson-Searle
Geoff Hudson-Searle

Top priorities include increasing profits (29 per cent) and growing their customer base (25 per cent). 11 per cent said they were prioritising cutting costs, while nine are focusing on expanding internationally.

The survey also logged the challenges small businesses see for this year (list below).

The number one concern will probably be ameliorated over coming months. Earlier this week, EY published a report which found that lending is set to rise in all areas of the economy, with UK bankers’ confidence higher than anywhere else in Europe.

Data from the Bank of England has shown that, although there was a sizeable drop in loans to big businesses towards the end of 2013, small business lending rose.

And in terms of interest rates, the fall in inflation to two per cent has, according to economists, slightly reduced pressure (for the time being) on the Bank to raise rates.

Top 10 challenges for 2014:

1.     Access to lending from banks (13 per cent)

2.     Increases in tax and interest rates (13 per cent)

3.     Increasing costs e.g. energy and travel (11 per cent)

4.     Retaining and boosting competitive USPs (11 per cent)

5.     Skills shortages (9 per cent)

6.     Transitioning from start up to SME (9 per cent)

7.     Accessing international markets (7 per cent)

8.     Overregulation (7 per cent)

9.     Economic volatility (6 per cent)

10.  Compliance and regulatory issues (5 per cent)

In a bid to contribute to Britain’s economic growth, HSBC has announced the launch of a £1.5bn funding pot for SMEs.

Last week, HSBC dedicated a £500 million funding pot to West Midlands SMEs in a move to allocate £6 billion of new lending facilities across its network.

Amanda Murphy, Head of Business Banking for HSBC, said: “Ambitious British businesses are saying they are going to invest this year and get on with growing.

“We want to support their ambitions by significantly increasing our net lending to businesses this year. We are helping more than 6,100 businesses start up every month, and want to support our hard working SME business owners on their drive for growth.”

HSBC also published a new report last week called ‘Business of Growth’ in conjunction with the funding pot, which claims 2014 will be a turning point for ambitious businesses in the West Midlands.

The bank identified Britain’s business growth potential for 2014 by incorporating analysis of 39 separate forecasts of GDP and investment.

The report also highlights the constant upwards revision of GDP growth over the last 12 months. The UK economy’s outperformance of the Eurozone and a rise of business confidence are seen as apt surroundings for growth.

The analysis itself is supported by the bank’s own experience, where new term lending us up 16 per cent year-on-year, and the overall value of lending that is being approved is even higher, at 37 per cent over the same period.

To support SMEs right across the UK, the bank will also:

•             Host 100 ‘Access to Finance’ workshops, to help small companies maximise their chances of securing funding

•             Hold over 50 ‘Fast Lane to Growth’ events across the UK, sharing strategies to accelerate growth and enter new markets;

•             Hold five ‘Global Connections’ thought leadership events where the UK’s best business leaders will share their secrets to success.​

As always, feel free to contact me if you have any questions!

Goal setting for Start-Up Businesses – tips and things to consider

Tips for start-ups GHSDepending on the type of business you set-up, you could experience a number of challenges along the way and not just in customer late payments. How you handle those problems may show how you will manage issues that come up when the business is up and running. If you to do proper research, strategy and planning when setting up your business, you will likely avoid some common pitfalls.


When setting up your business, you may come across people or organisations that delay your progress. Some delays are manageable while others are completely out of your control. For instance if you learn that you need a special permit to run the business late in the planning process, you may have to push back your plans until the government agency reviews and approves your application. Always have a backup plan ready in case of these issues, such as a later date to open the doors of your business.

Financial Challenges

Lack of proper funding is a common reason businesses fail. A snag in the process of securing financing for your new company could halt your plans altogether. For this reason it is wise to take steps to seek and apply for financing early in the start-up process. Cash reserves to run your business and fund the first year of operations of your business may not let you to sustain day to day cash flow until the business can generate any real revenue. So make sure you get your personal financial matters in order and start saving well in advance of attempting to start your own business. Lenders and investors commonly look at the financial status and character of the business owner when evaluating the company for financing.

Poor Organization

Issues regarding your organisation may also plague a prospective business owner. This issue is far-reaching because lack of organisational skills can negatively affect every step of the business setup process. Poor organisation may also affect the way other parties perceive your business concept in general. You can avoid problems related to lack of organization by consulting a business mentor, buying programs to help you organize and hiring help to help you with the process.

Some risks to consider when setting up a business:

1. Select a business structure that limits personal liability. Change your business structure from a sole proprietorship where you are personally liable for business operations to a corporation or limited liability company where you have limited liability.

2. Transfer risk to insurance companies by insuring against major risks such as damage to your facilities, product liability, injuries to customers or suppliers and death or incapacity of company principals.

3. Perform a risk analysis by evaluating the consequences of risky activities, the likelihood of the consequences occurring and the benefits of the risky activities. Avoid risk by not carrying out activities that have severe and likely consequences and low benefits.

4. Transfer the risk of activities with severe and likely consequences but high benefits to other parties. Create a new, independent company to carry out these activities or assign them to suppliers or partners.

5. Reduce risk from product failure and warranty claims by implementing a quality assurance program. Develop a system of reporting from customer service to identify problems. Structure the quality assurance program to document production tasks and product testing. Link the problems reported by customer service to specific failures in production or testing procedures and start corrective action.

6. Reduce risk of surprises in operating results by keeping accurate records and instituting effective controls. Put in place a system that limits who can authorize specific actions and how much they can spend. Implement a reporting system that gives you key information about company performance. Evaluate the controls and reporting system by comparing actual practice and performance to the control procedures and the reported information.

7. Reduce financial risk by managing your accounts receivable to minimize outstanding balances and identify poor credit risks. Implement credit and payment standards, specifying which credit scores and payment records are acceptable. Evaluate customer payments and ask for advance payment from customers who don’t meet the standards.

8. Reduce financial risk by keeping outstanding loans and financing needs to a minimum. Control growth at a rate that the company can finance internally. If the company can’t pay off some loans, replace short-term credit with long-term, fixed-rate loans.

If you have any questions, please do ask. Here to help you succeed!